Don’t Go Broke Trying To Look The Part

In Beauty and Style, Personal Finance by Kelby4 Comments

We’ve all seen them. They drive the right cars. Wear the right clothes. Say all the right words. On the surface, they have all of the trappings that you would attribute to someone that has ‘made it.’ Unfortunately, more often than not, it’s a façade.

I’m sure after reading that, many of you have unconsciously identified someone in your life that fits the description perfectly. If not, chances are it could be the person staring back at you when you brush your teeth in the morning.

(After re-reading that sentence, I can see how it could come across a little creepy – definitely not my intention. I meant it could be you – because hopefully you’re the only person staring back while brushing your teeth. Otherwise that would be really weird…)

I’m not sure where the whole ‘fake it – till you make it’ phenomenon originated but I wish that it would crawl back in its rightful place between the song ‘Let it Go’ (sorry Frozen fans) and ‘Y.O.L.O.’ in the annals of history to never be spoken of again. Although I’m sure the author of the phrase had the purest of intentions, this philosophy has led to the financial detriment of millions.

To be fair, I can understand the psychological aspect of the argument that says “if you put on an air of confidence and assert that you’re a bit better than you actually are at the moment, you will project success and that will ultimately lead you to achieve success.” While the general premise may be harmless, as with many things, the devil is in the details.

If you were to ask a random person on the street to give their definition of a successful person, I would be willing to wager that majority of the responses would center on appearance and/or material items. This is just a reality of the society that we live in. Unfortunately, projecting success for many of us means running up credit card debt in an attempt to craft a certain image by the clothes that we wear. For others it could be financing that entry-level luxury vehicle or buying a home in that particular neighborhood, because that’s what will help us look the part.

It’s all a sham and it’s this type of thinking that really hinders financial success. When it comes to your finances, ‘Faking it – till you make it’ is essentially trading your anticipated future earnings for the opportunity to look the part today. To further complicate matters, there is no guarantee that simulating success today translates into actual success tomorrow.

Let’s play devil’s advocate for a second and say that you did finally reach a level of success after faking it for a few years. During those years of playing the game, you’ve gone the typical route; bought ‘power suits’ on credit and financed vehicles to emulate the successful attributes that you desire. Needless to say, you’ve racked up significant debt but hey, you’re finally in the corner office. Now that you’ve made it, you can’t just stop ‘looking’ the part. The spending will likely increase due to lifestyle inflation and soon the only view that you’ll see from that corner office window, is your mountain of debt.

It’s a vicious cycle that you’re better off not getting swept away by.

While it is possible that looking the part can help boost your confidence and that, may in turn, lead to certain opportunities. Doing so at the risk of your financial stability is folly.

The odds are NOT in your favor.

What are your thoughts? Do you buy into the Fake it till you make it philosophy? Let’s chat. Join the conversation!

Before I forget –
The idea for this came after reading a post titled: Buying-in To Our Personal Narrative on the blog Money After Graduation. Although the post was not about ‘Faking it until you make it’ – per se, it got the wheels turning for me about why we make the purchases that we make, which in a roundabout way, led me to write this post. (As a side note, when you get a moment…check out some of the other post on the MAG site – Bridget is a fantastic writer).


  1. Awesome article Kelby, very insightful! As for me, i refuse to “fake it til I make it”. I’d rather live a comfortable humble life then to satisfy society and live in debt. Not to say that I am debt free, because I am not. I was young and careless once but you live and you learn and you pay back the debt, lol. The key here is to think wisely when making financial decisions such as thinking of “the things that I NEED” vs “the things that I WANT”. Don’t get men wrong, theres nothing wrong with a little indulgement, as long as you do it within you means. In other words, if you have to pull out your credit card for it or finance it, perhaps maybe it can wait and we can treat ourselves with something more affordable that can be purchased with a debit card. Unfortunately, for some, its easy to get caught up with living in a materialistic lifestyle and become impatient with the things we want, as in “I must have it now”. Its easy to get brainwashed by whats trending and trying to meet unrealistic expectations by placing yourself in debt. But in reality your only putting yourself in a deeper hole for the future. I am still a working progress, but I’ve come a long way. However, now that I am going to be a mommy I am taking my financial decisions very serious more than ever.

    1. Author

      Thank you Diana! I think I’m going to tweet out “I’d rather live a comfortable humble life then to satisfy society and live in debt.” That mindset is SO important to have! It’s like everywhere you look, something is competing for your attention saying “buy this” or “your life would be so much easier if you had that” -that it’s easy to fall for the temptation. I know for me, having children completely changed my view of money and it sounds like you’re in the same boat. Congrats on making the decision to take your money more seriously, your little ones’ life will be dramatically different as a result.

  2. Hello Kelby,

    We are all about debt free living. We drive a 97 Civic and a 05 van, because I refuse to invest in a item that looses value. We have no credit card debt. We do have a very lovely house that has about $60k in equity and are making extra payments to payoff early and student loans that we are paying off too. We choose to have a simple living because I do not care to impress others. My value does not come from what I wear or have, but from who I am. If the people surrounding me can not see that, then I let them fall to the side. I can say, I do work with investors (many multimillionaires) an most are just as forward thinking. The business men and women I work with are constantly focusing on value building decisions. Thankfully I am surrounded by individuals with this mindset which motivates me to do better.

    1. Author

      Hey Augusta!

      You all are absolutely KILLING IT! I love the statement about your value…I’m going to have to borrow that. The saying goes, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” This definitely seems fitting for you. Great stuff! Thank you so much for sharing.

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